24 February 2012

malaria on my mind

Loulou was sick Sunday night.  A barrage of midnight vomit and fever.  She looked puny by morning and all the mamas gathered around her - clucking and worried.

Meanwhile, I was tired, but unconcerned.  She was still my feisty Lou - demanding "de l'eau!" and giving Elias a hard time.  I, the nurse, figured - "Ah, well.  Disgusting virus.  I hope this is just a 24 hour deal."

By afternoon, she was sweet-talking rice from Mama NouNou and chasing the cat.  All was well.

But, everywhere I went, my Congolese coworkers, members of the atelier (the maintenance staff on campus), the mamas, everyone kept asking and re-asking if Lou was okay.  "La petite est mieux?" they asked, over and over.  How did they even know my baby was sick?  It's no big deal.  A little virus.

And I realized, suddenly, why they were so worried.
Babies die in the Congo.  All the time.

When a baby is sick, it very well may die soon.  Highly likely, in fact. 1 in 7 children die before reaching age 5.

Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea:  the constellation of of deadly symptoms for children.  Malaria, typhoid, dysentery.  Could be one - or all three.

We have these trusty tests at home:

And, for Loulou, it was negative.  No malaria. (Our kids have already accepted that fever=malaria test.)

On Tuesday, Mamicho stopped by our house on her way to Sarah's; to put her hands on Lou's head, check for fever, make sure she was eating and drinking.  Mama Vida gravely reassured everyone, "She is eating.  She is eating rice.  She is laughing.  She is okay."

Because, while I was just relieved that I was no longer "suffering" through a vomit-filled night, they were relieved my baby was alive.

Reality check.

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